Keeping a positive outlook with bipolar is a challenge on its own. Doing so when you are isolated and facing situations beyond your control can feel impossible! Here is how I am trying to keep calm and carry on.
during a Bipolar Mood Swing
Trying to stay positive when in the throes of bipolar mood swings can be difficult at any time, but during a particularly taxing period like now, it can be especially challenging. I tend to look for the worst in any situation and plan for that to happen. It’s a personal tendency that can be exacerbated while I’m in a depressive state. I have been especially vigilant about trying to stay upbeat during this time because I know that whatever thoughts and outside influences I surround myself with can make or break an incipient depressive episode. Here is how my family and I work to create an environment that promotes peace and emotional stability.
#1 Creating a
As soon as I learned of our global health crisis, above all, I knew I needed to stay calm and positive—at least for my youngest daughter’s sake, if not for my own. I first began to create a soothing atmosphere by playing calm, tranquil music. I have quite a collection of nature music, with ocean waves or summer rain or animal calls in the background. I started with my favorites of those first—anything to ease the whirring of anxiety in my brain. I queued up five such playlists and simply let the music and sounds of nature wash over us.
#2 Mixing Up
the Music to Suit My Mood
When I later developed a
need for more upbeat music, I turned to my favorite radio station for driving
in the car and listened to 80s pop classics playing all day long—taking me back
to a time filled with good memories of being young and without a care in the
world. Later, I needed to mix it up again, as the airwaves were filled with
negative news at intervals throughout the day.
Mass Media and Seeking Silence When Necessary
I don’t watch TV during the day, as a normal course of action, but I knew that I needed to get my news and information from print and online sources rather than through the television or radio. The twenty-four-hour news networks were filling the air with speculation and scary headlines, and the radio stations I listen to were providing news updates every twenty minutes. I needed silence and time to digest what I was reading, not blaring sounds from the TV breaking up the calm and positive atmosphere I was trying to create in our quarantined household.
#4 Managing Personal
Expectations and Accepting My Feelings
I also worked to manage
my expectations for myself. I knew there would be days I would probably be
unable to function due to the paralyzing fear that was enveloping the country—no
matter how hard I tried to hold it together. I gave myself permission and time
to grieve so many lives lost, the upheavals our society was going through, and
the personal and financial difficulties we were enduring as well.
I felt particularly
panicked about the layoff of one of my close family members. I gave myself
permission to feel for her and others in her situation by resting at times when
I could process the feelings safely—with my therapist, with my husband, or
simply by myself. In time, my family member found a way to manage her
situation, and I let go of my anxieties about her and trusted in her judgment.
#5 Recognizing the
Value of Routine
My youngest daughter, whose school had closed and moved to online learning, found solace in creating a routine for herself—getting up at 8:30 a.m., doing schoolwork in the morning, eating lunch at 11:00 a.m., then reserving the afternoon for social time with her friends or personal projects, such as puzzles or reorganizing and rearranging her room.
I soon found a way to adapt
and learn from her example. I got up and did writing work in the morning, such
as working on my graduate thesis, delving into my investigative reporting, and
updating my blog. Then I had lunch with my husband when he came home from work,
and I spent the afternoon taking care of family needs (such as laundry,
shopping, and cooking) or other personal projects. It didn’t matter what I did,
exactly; just knowing the routine was there was enough to keep me upbeat and
looking forward to the next thing.
#6 Writing Out
Writing out my feelings has always been a way for me to process them, and I used my blog, my creative writing, and my journalism work to find ways to cope with my negative feelings. If I felt like I was “losing it” one day, I found it helpful to write it out on my blog, so I could encourage myself and others to find community in this time of isolation.
If your life is getting out of hand and you need an outlet for your feelings, start a journal, whether it’s written in every day on paper in a pretty book or typed into a document on your computer. If it makes you feel better to get those unhelpful, negative, or irrational feelings out of your system then delete the words forever, that’s fine, too. Whatever works for you.
My most trying moments came when my husband got sick and was tested himself. During the next 48 hours, before the results came back (negative!), I brought all my coping skills to bear on managing my overwhelming anxiety. I dug back into our CD collection for the music we had played for our kids when they were young—themes from the Charlie Brown TV specials in particular. I took long baths at night. I kept busy during the day, writing out what I was going through mentally. All of these coping skills came together to help me manage my feelings, and I emerged from that difficult time knowing I could bear up with a positive attitude even under the very worst of anxiety.
can use whatever combination of these skills that I prefer or those healthy
ones you have developed on your own—even in times of national difficulty or
grief. Staying healthy in every way means taking care of your mental health as
well as your physical needs.
What do you do to keep a realistic, positive outlook in troubling times?
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